Tuesday, August 27, 2013
In my last post, I told you one of the saddest stories that I have ever told.
Now, I'm going to tell you one of the scariest.
"I SHOOT EVERY SECOND PROWLER, THE FIRST ONE JUST LEFT."
That was handwritten on a note thumb-tacked to the door of this overgrown red brick building along a lonely stretch of road west of Singhampton, Ontario. Above the note was a sign reading "HUNTING PERMITTED BEYOND THIS POINT."
Cob webs stretched, snapped and fell away as my sweaty hand trepidatiously turned the knob and the door creaked slowly open.
"Hello?" I attempted to yell but faltered and merely whispered.
I tried again, yelling but sounding more scared than anything...
From the road, the building appeared at one time to have been a schoolhouse or church. But inside, with those death threats on the door behind me, I instantly realized that it had been converted to a private residence of a Yugoslavian family of Slovenian descent. It became obvious very quickly that hunting was an obsession to the primary occupant and decorator of this abode. As were alcohol consumption and aviation.
Hunting gear was everywhere, and I mean everywhere.
My hands brushed through and separated what I thought was a beaded curtain. I poked my head through and shouted my greeting once more, this time with confidence. A voice broke the silence. It was Ninja behind me proclaiming that the beaded curtain was actually made of beer caps and bullets.
Sweaty palms got sweatier. Nervousness intensified. That threat on the door behind us got very real and we were on edge. Our fear was almost palpable.
But once again, curiosity won out over fear and we ventured deeper into the house.
As Ninja poked around the kitchen I walked down the hall and into a bedroom. As she read a document aloud I stumbled upon something that I found quite ironic. She was reading something that had been translated from Slovenian to English, but I didn't hear a word. I was staring at an empty bottle of Appleton Estates Jamaican Rum that I found standing atop a dresser. I was completely lost in thought planning a relapse I knew I didn't want. The irony struck me so profoundly: Appleton Estates Jamaican Rum was my drink of choice and after almost 21 months clean and sober, I was planning to go buy myself a bottle of that very rum on that very day.
You see, this story isn't scary because of the threat on the door, or the hunting paraphernalia, or the creepy chalkboards or the antlers or the skull. It isn't scary because of the risk involved with exploring or the intense fear that we felt inside that house or even the threat of drunken angry Slovenian hunters bashing through the door and violently murdering us.
It is scary because I gave up. It is scary because in sobriety I had found a way of life and a happiness that I had never dreamed possible, and I loved it. It is scary not only because I relapsed on a brutal three day bender, but because of the lesson I learned from this experience.
It is scary because I am an alcoholic and I am powerless over alcohol. It is scary because I've come to terms with the fact that I have a disease that tries to trick me into thinking that I don't have it. It is scary because on this day it did convince me that I might not have it, even though I knew otherwise.
It is scary because I know now how easily my entire life will fall apart if I ever again let this disease convince me that I might not have it.
As I sit here writing this post, I have been clean and sober for seven days.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES
Monday, August 26, 2013
This is undoubtedly one of the saddest stories that I have ever told.
This isn't a story with a beginning and a middle. This is a story about an ending.
Not to say that there wasn't a beginning and a middle, because there certainly was. For all I know the beginning and middle may have been happy and joyous, filled with family, love and laughter. Or maybe it was heartache and loneliness all the way through the story. Perhaps, and most likely, it was a combination of the two.
But with the history, the beginning and the middle set aside and left unknown, we are left with a story about an ending.
In the spring of 2009, a girl named Julie and her boyfriend, a pair of urban explorers, approached the old red brick farmhouse on the hill, which appeared to them to be abandoned. Uneasiness came over them, but after a long pause, they ventured forth. A strange sight stopped them in their tracks: a pile of cigarette butts sat directly adjacent to a pile of banana peels in varying states of decomposition, some of them fresh. This enhanced the uneasiness, Julie reported, adding that "...curiosity forced us to continue on."
She went on to describe the wide open door, the vines growing into the windows, the holes in the ceilings and walls, the layers of bugs and cob webs and a room full of either animal or human feces. They were drawn immediately upstairs, she continued...
"This is where it gets creepy. Despite the layers of grunge that you find in every abandonment, the bathroom looked in alright shape compared to the rest of the house. And a roll of toilet paper on the sink...in half decent condition. Open the door, and there it was. The only room in the house with furniture. Mind you, everything was coated in layers of dust, even the clothing and shoes laying beside the bed (which was made). We heard a cough. Froze. Waited. Nothing. Eventually, the footsteps began. It was like being in a horror movie. Somehow, our legs began to propel us towards the front door, down the steps, around the corner.....and there he was. Drooling and hunched over from the 60 or 70 years of life he's lived. Spewing nonsensical angry sounding words. I hid behind my boyfriend as he talked our way out of the situation...there are no real words to describe the way this old man was. It was like he was picked out of a horror film. Imagine a farmer from one of those movies, only we lived and managed to get out of the situation. Got in my car as fast as possible and took off."
Flash forward two years to the spring of 2011 and I was sitting at my computer reading this story and realizing that this house was nearby. The online conversation that had ensued after she told her story was just as interesting. Fellow explorers were pondering who this man was and his possible residential and mental health status. Was he okay? Did he need help? My mind began to race. What would I encounter if I were to pay a visit, I couldn't help but ponder. He couldn't possibly still be residing in this filth and squalor, could he? And so I made my way over there, and against my gut feeling, began wandering up the driveway.
Much like was Julie's experience two years earlier, curiosity forced me to continue.
Against an outer wall, I was shocked to stumble upon a pile of cigarette butts next to a pile of banana peels in varying states of decomposition, again, some of them fresh.
And then it happened.
I never did make it inside. As I walked around to find the open door that Julie spoke of, a spectre like figure passed by the window inside the house. I stood frozen, not sure if I even believed my own eyes. Was that human? And then it happened again. It was unmistakable. An old man wearing what appeared to be a collared blue denim or plaid shirt passed by the window again in the opposite direction.
I ran as fast as I could down that hill.
In the words of Julie from two years prior, I...
"Got in my car as fast as possible and took off."
I never looked back. Never even considered a return visit.
Flash forward another two years to the summer of 2013 and an online post by another explorer, my friend MSG. From his pictures, I didn't connect the dots. It wasn't until he sent me the GPS co-ordinates that I put it together...
He explored the old man's house on the hill. Now it was time for a return visit of my own.
This is where the story goes from sad to devastating.
The door was still broken and wide open. The vines were even thicker, growing up the wall and in through the windows. Filth and grime and cob webs covered everything in sight. It appeared as though this home had not been inhabited in decades. Unfortunately, I was all too well aware that this was not the case.
A smoke detector was screaming a piercing cry of anguish.
Again, I followed in Julie's footsteps and something immediately drew me up the main staircase, all 21 steps, with Ninja IX in tow. The rooms throughout the house were absolutely massive, with very high ceilings and wide doorways. Most of the spacious second floor bedrooms were empty, but for a giant clothes horse standing in one room, and a mound of clothing piled in the corner of another, with a pair of antique skates hanging from the wall.
Upstairs, the smoke detector's cry got quieter but was still audible.
And then I entered that bathroom that was "in alright shape" during Julie's visit four years earlier. It was absolutely disgusting, covered in grime and filth. Sadness had been present here for a very long time before me feeling it so strongly in that moment. We then ventured forth into that bedroom full of furniture and personal belongings. It was all still in tact. We spent hours in this bedroom and the one across the hall. We poked around and documented our findings. Amongst many interesting personal items, I uncovered countless old receipts, bills and letters dating as far back as the 1930s. It appeared the family lineage dated back many years at this farmhouse, only to end so very tragically.
I descended the skinny secondary staircase between these bedrooms and the scream of the smoke detector began to pierce my eardrums. As I reached up with a Swiffer mop to try and knock the smoke detector down so I could catch it and turn it off, I heard Ninja yell something from the next room that startled me.
She yelled "This calendar says January 2013, and this electric space heater is giving off heat." My eyes widened and a sense of panic struck me for a brief moment, and of course the smoke detector fell and crashed at my feet, smashing into pieces and sending the batteries racing down the hall.
New appliances had been set up down here. A brand new washer and dryer sat beside a new fridge. A magnet on the fridge caught my eye, it was that of a local community health care provider. Around the corner, the mark of this community health care provider became more obvious, a step in shower and a toilet had been installed in what used to be a dining room.
And then in the kitchen, inside a drawer, I found the answer to all of the questions that I'd been pondering...
Who was this old man? What was wrong with him? Why was he drooling and yelling incoherently at Julie and her boyfriend four years ago? What sort of illnesses did he have? Why would he be living in this filth and squalor? Why would his surviving family members leave him here to live like this? Or to die like this?
The answers that I found in that kitchen drawer were in the form of his meds. Several drawers were fully stocked with boxes, bottles and blister packs full of medications. A plethora of medications filled the drawers, many of them for heart and cholesterol health. But the answer came in the sad discovery of a particular drug: Aricept. Aricept packages, both recent and dating back many years were found throughout the drawers and cabinets. Aricept, also known as Donepezil is used therapeutically in the palliative treatment of Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia.
Sadly, research revealed that after suffering from dementia and existing in this filth, squalor and loneliness for many many years, the resident passed away in local hospital on February 1st, 2013, at the age of 87. He had no surviving relatives and his obituary read "he will be missed by his friends and neighbours", but when asked, his closest neighbours revealed that they didn't even know him.
Sadness overwhelms the author.
This is a sad story, no question about it. A sad ending at least.
Lets just hope the beginning and middle were a different story.
May the old man rest in peace.
Now having told you one of the saddest stories I've ever told, it is time to tell you one of the scariest: The Yugoslavian Hunting House.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES